- Traction aplenty
- Lacking in standard equipment
Ben Griffin heads to Berkshire to see whether the BMW X4 is a well-thought out combination of SUV and saloon, or a confused mess, in his road test review.
The BMW X4 is difficult to define. On the one hand, it’s a rugged SUV with all-wheel drive. On the other, it’s also a sporty coupe. The reason for this mish-mash is, essentially, to give consumers the strengths of two cars in a single, premium package. It sounds like a great idea in principle, but does it offer the best of both worlds or is it a Jack of all trades, master of none?
Think of the BMW X4 as a sporty version of the X3, or a shrunken version of the X6. Aesthetically it’s a bit of an odd duck, although in the flesh it has a certain charm (yes, we’ve had our eyes tested recently). The front is blessed with BMW’s trademark kidney grille at the end of a long bonnet, while the back end looks like a 3 Series with Kim Kardashian’s posterior proportions.
The swooping roof line, meanwhile, helps it look relatively low, sleek and coupe-like. The X4’s roof is 36mm lower than the X3’s, while bumper to bumper its been stretched by 14mm.
It’s a car that garners lots of attention on the road, although it’s difficult to tell whether people are looking at it in admiration or disgust. Either way, the X4 definitely makes a statement, which is more than can be said of the X3 or some of its rivals.
There’s bags of space inside the BMW X4. Its roofline may be low, but so are its seats — the front and rear pews have been dropped by 20mm and 28mm, respectively. The front will accomodate all but the most freakishly tall occupants, with plenty of leg and headroom. The rear is roomy too, as long as you’re not sat in the middle seat.
There are lots of storage areas in which you can keep your stuff organised. The central compartment lets you stash plenty of Haribo as well as charge and connect your phone to the infotainment system, while the glove box and door bins are cavernous.
The 500-litre boot is big, although 50 litres smaller than the X3’s, and the standard 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats provide flexibility for carrying long, bulky items with the possibility of maintaining some rear seating. Fold them all flat and the total space is 1,400 litres. You would need a very large family to fill it with food shopping.
A Porsche Macan, by comparison, has a 500-litre boot that can be expanded to 1,500 litres. An Audi Q5 manages 540 litres.
Rear visibility is poor because of the tiny rear window and checking your blindspot is more difficult because of the sloped roof and rear pillars, but you can at least make use of a rear view camera and Park Distance Control for getting in and out of tight spots.
The lack of wiper blades at the back could prove annoying in bad weather.
Performance & Handling
Every X4, whether the bottom of the range xDrive20d diesel or the daddy xDrive35d, comes with all-wheel drive. So whichever you go for, expect more traction than you can shake a wet, muddy stick at.
There is no option of a petrol engine, which may seem upsetting for some, seeing as the X4 is a sportier proposition than the X3, but most of BMW’s diesels are a pleasure to drive, so you’re not missing too much. The mid-range xDrive30d fitted to our test car offers 258hp and 560Nm of torque. Stick your foot down and the otherwise quiet engine roars into life, propelling you from 0 to 62mph in a startling 5.8 seconds.
The xDrive30d pulls convincingly in just about every gear, and makes a decent noise – some may even be fooled into thinking it’s a petrol unit.
The X4 includes BMW’s Performance Control system as standard, which lets you cycle through various driving modes, each of which adjusts the weight of the steering, speed of gear changes and the sensitivity of throttle inputs. Eco and Sport Plus seem a bit too mudane or hardcore, respectively, so you’ll probably spend most of your time flicking between the happy medium of Comfort, or the just-bonkers-enough Sport setting.
The BMW X3 handles well and the X4, with its retuned suspension, is even better. The ride, while comfortable, is definitely on the firm side, but this enhances the X4’s sporting credentials. It’s agile through corners, has little body roll and has staggering grip. At times it’s hard to believe you’re riding in an SUV.
Stop and start traffic is no problem for the incredibly smooth eight-speed automatic (standard on the xDrive 30d and xDrive35d), which changes gear without any fuss. Motorway cruising is also handled well, although there is a lot of wind noise at 70mph.
Ground clearance is less than an X3 or X5 so really tough terrain will be a problem for the X4. But the extremely bumpy farm track we drove along was no problem. It even manages very steep hills and craterous potholes. Plenty of torque and seemingly limitless traction inspire you to try your luck on all types of terrain.
Economy & Environment
The xDrive30d is fast and frugal. Impressive acceleration is paired with 47.9mpg and 156g/km of CO2 emissions, making it relatively cheap to run given its size and practicality.
The more powerful, more expensive xDrive35d sees the fuel economy and CO2 worsen to 47.1mpg and 157g/km, but then it does offer a hugely impressive 313hp and 630Nm of torque.
The 2.0-litre xDrive20d has 193hp and 400Nm of torque at its disposal while managing 54.3mpg and 143g/km of CO2. 0 to 62mph takes 8 seconds, so the performance gap is significant, but you can hardly call it a slouch.
Equipment & Value
You’ll pay a premium for the X4’s sporty tendencies — a comparable BMW X3 costs £3,600 less. A manual 20d X1 with all-wheel drive, meanwhile, would set you back £8,335 less.
BMW says it expects the lowly xDrive20d to be the top-seller, which seems likely, seeing as it’s the best value for money. The gap between the most basic xDrive20d and xDrive30d is at least £8,000, depending on the spec you choose. As good as the xDrive30d is, you have to really crave that extra performance to make it worthwhile.
Our car was fitted with the M Sport trim, which sits above xLine and SE in the range. It also had the optional £2,490 M Sport Plus package, which adds 20-inch alloys (up from 19 inches), adaptive headlights and a Harman Kardon speaker system.
You’ll have to pay through the nose for all the really cool stuff. The Professional Navigation system, for instance, comes as part of the £900 Media package alongside BMW Online services and Real Time Traffic information. The useful head-up display is another £895.
At least the ‘free’ sports seats are extremely comfortable and supportive, while cruise control as standard makes really long motorway stints less of a chore. The M steering wheel is good, too, as is the automatic tailgate if you are too lazy to open and close it yourself.
A relatively short list of extras had our X4 from a base price of £47,403 up to a total of £55,248. When you’re spending that sort of cash you really ought to consider the cheaper X3, or ditching the family altogether and splurging on an entry-level Jaguar F-Type V6.
And at that sort of money, who can ignore the prospect of the much more stylish Porsche Macan, which is just as practical.
Various airbags, including in the front headrests, help keep you in one piece if the worst happens. If it does, a crash system enables the hazards and interior lighting, unlocks the central locking and disables the fuel supply and vehicle electronics.
The BMW X4 is yet to undergo a Euro NCAP test, but it’s based on the X3, which scored well. Further safety enhancements can be added, such as the £440 lane change warning system that gives you a visual warning when a car is in your blindspot, keeping you from changing lanes and hitting the car next to you.
The X4 does a solid job of combining sportiness with practicality. It’s hugely engaging to drive with excellent traction, bags of torque and is a joy to hurl around corners — just like a coupe should be. It also has plenty of space, is comfortable and isn’t shy around slippery, muddy terrain — as you’d expect from an SUV.
It’s by no means perfect. By trying to fulfil two briefs, it inevitably falls short of excelling at either. The X3 is arguably better off road and slightly more practical, while the Porsche Macan is a trendier, sportier proposition with a tad more prestige.
All things considered, the X4 is worthy of consideration, particularly by those automotive extroverts who want a vehicle that not only drives well, but that also stands out from the crowd.
BMW X4 pictures
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